Rob Gronkowski is THE most dominant tight end in football – no questions or arguments there. All Patriot fans know exactly what he is capable of when he is healthy, but the one question many people are asking: will he ever be fully healthy again? When asked if he would be ready for week one, Gronkowski confidently responded with a very typical Gronk-like answer, “No doubt.” Gronk is confident he will be back on the field in the Navy and Red this year, but how confident can the Patriots be in Gronk? The National Football League has taken a toll on Gronk’s body, with nine reported surgeries since his senior season at Arizona back in 2009. These are just reported injuries. There’s no telling what Gronk has played through in his career. His most recent of injuries being a lower back injury. A guy who consistently plays as hard as Gronk does can definitely be nerve-wracking for the New England medical staff.
The Patriots are returning a very solid receiving core, with new additions coming in: the speedy deep threat in Brandin Cooks, as well as Dwayne Allen, a proven, durable tight end. This is scary, with Edelman anchoring the core, and White out of the backfield, Tom Brady has seemingly endless options. If Gronk returns healthy and plays to the level we all know he can, all eyes are on the prize: Super Bowl 52.
If Gronkowski is indeed ready for week one, what can we expect? Looking at the Patriots success this past season without Gronk, I think he will see limited minutes in the early weeks which will allow the coaches, as well as the medical staff, to monitor Gronk’s every move. We will see a heavy dose of empty sets, utilizing James White and newly acquired Burkhead. But where does the big man fit in this scheme? Similar to last season when Gronk split time with Martellus Bennett, I am positive we will see Gronk splitting time with Allen. As the season progresses, if Gronkowski shows strength and confidence, I believe we will see glimpses of “The Gronk.” Rob Gronkowski’s best football is still ahead of him, we will just have to be patient and trust in the system. It hasn’t let us down very often.